625 F.3d 294 (6th Cir. 2010), 08-2088, Sykes v. Anderson

Docket Nº:08-2088, 08-2090, 08-2118.
Citation:625 F.3d 294
Opinion Judge:KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Kimberly SYKES, Tevya Grace Urquhart, Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. Derrick ANDERSON, Carol Nichols, Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Attorney:Linda D. Fegins, City of Detroit Law Department, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants. Mark Granzotto, Mark Granzotto, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellees. Linda D. Fegins, City of Detroit Law Department, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants. Mark Granzotto, Mark Granzotto, P.C., Royal Oak, Michig...
Judge Panel:Before: MOORE and GILMAN, Circuit Judges; RUSSELL, Chief District Judge.[*]
Case Date:November 09, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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625 F.3d 294 (6th Cir. 2010)

Kimberly SYKES, Tevya Grace Urquhart, Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants,

v.

Derrick ANDERSON, Carol Nichols, Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

Nos. 08-2088, 08-2090, 08-2118.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

November 9, 2010

Argued: April 29, 2010.

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ARGUED:

Linda D. Fegins, City of Detroit Law Department, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants.

Mark Granzotto, Mark Granzotto, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Linda D. Fegins, City of Detroit Law Department, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants.

Mark Granzotto, Mark Granzotto, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, Julie H. Hurwitz, Goodman & Hurwitz, P.C., Detroit, Michigan, Thomas M. Loeb, Law Office of Thomas M. Loeb, Farmington Hills, Michigan, for Appellees.

Before: MOORE and GILMAN, Circuit Judges; RUSSELL, Chief District Judge.[*]

OPINION

KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge.

In 2004, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned Kimberly Sykes's and Tevya Urquhart's convictions for the state crimes of " Larceny by Conversion" and " False Report of a Felony" on the grounds that their convictions were based on mere " speculation" and " layers of impermissible inferences." After their release from prison, Sykes and Urquhart (" the Plaintiffs" ) brought 42 U.S. C. § 1983 actions against several Detroit police officers, asserting claims of false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and denial of due process. The Plaintiffs also brought suit against the City of Detroit on the grounds that the City failed to respond to citizen complaints and failed to train and supervise its employees. The district court dismissed the claims against the City of Detroit prior to trial but submitted the remaining claims to the jury. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs on three claims against two individual officers (" the Defendants" ) and awarded the Plaintiffs over $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The Defendants now contest the district court's denial of their motion for judgment as a matter of law and appeal the damage award.

For the following reasons, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court as to the Plaintiffs' claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and violations of due process; we REMAND the case for the sole purpose of having the district court articulate, in the first instance, an explanation for its denial of the Defendants' motion for remittitur; and we HOLD IN ABEYANCE the Plaintiffs' cross-appeals in Case Numbers 08-2090 and 08-2118, pending our review of the district court's explanation for the denial of the Defendants' motion for remittitur.

I. FACTS & PROCEDURE

A. Background Facts

On March 7, 2002, Sykes, Urquhart, and a third individual, Kimberly Holmes, arrived at their place of employment, a Sprint PCS store, in Detroit, Michigan shortly before 8:00 a.m. in order to open the store for business. As Urquhart disabled the alarm and the three women entered the store, two men approached and forced their way into the store's foyer despite Sykes's and Urquhart's attempt to close and lock the door behind them. Once inside, one of the men told the women to " shut the F up before somebody get[s] shot" and revealed a gun that he had been concealing under his shirt. Dist. Ct. Docket (" Doc." ) 256 (Urquhart Trial

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Test. at 151-52). The two men then marched the women at gun point through the employee door to the back of the store where they were ordered to lie on the floor. Urquhart testified that one of the robbers " proceeded to say [that] one of [them] better get the F up and open up the safe door." Doc. 257 (Urquhart Trial Test. at 21). Urquhart, who was three months pregnant at the time, was the only one who had the combination to open the safe. She was led at gunpoint to the room where the safe was located and was ordered to enter the room and remove the money contained inside the safe. In compliance with the armed robber's demand, Urquhart crossed the small room to the safe, " pulled out a money bag and [ ] slid it across [the floor] to the man at the door." Id. at 23. Retrieving the money bag, the armed man then ordered Urquhart to " shut up and get back on the ground," threatened to " come back and shoot" the women if they tried to do anything, and closed the door as he left. Id. at 26. The two robbers fled with approximately $27,000.

Within minutes of the perpetrators' exit, Holmes and Sykes approached the room containing the safe to check on Urquhart. When Urquhart rose from the floor to let Holmes and Sykes into the safe room, she was hysterical and crying uncontrollably. Sykes immediately called the police on her cellular phone. Still fearing that the robbers would return, the women decided to " barricade" themselves " under the table" in the safe room and wait for help. Id. at 33. During the ten-minute period that the women waited for the police to arrive, Urquhart remained inconsolable. At one point, she briefly emerged from under the table, crawling a few feet to a trash receptacle positioned next to the safe where she proceeded to spit up into the trash. Holmes also emerged from under the " safe haven" of the table sometime after Urquhart returned, crawled to the safe, opened the door, took out the remaining money bag, and then returned the money bag to the safe. Id. Images of the robbery were captured on the store's surveillance cameras with the exception of several dead spots, i.e., locations that were outside of the cameras' view, which included the hallway where the women initially were forced to lie down and the space underneath the table in the safe room.

When officers from the Detroit Police Department arrived on the scene, Defendant Sergeant Carol Nichols, the officer in charge, and Officer Terrence Sims began taking witness statements. Urquhart became increasingly agitated and extremely emotional when Sgt. Nichols attempted to interview her in the room where the robbery had just occurred and with the door closed. Sgt. Nichols testified that she found Urquhart's agitation suspicious and believed her to be " ‘ full of crap,’ " Doc. 260 (Nichols Trial Test. at 45) (quoting Nichols's deposition), although Sgt. Nichols did recognize that the interview took place in the same room where the pregnant Urquhart was held at gunpoint less than two hours earlier. Urquhart ultimately required medical treatment at the scene. Following Sgt. Nichols's conversation with Urquhart, Urquhart signed a written witness statement that Sgt. Nichols had drafted, providing Urquhart's account of the robbery. Both Sykes and Holmes also provided statements to the police at the scene, and, as with Urquhart, Sgt. Nichols found Sykes's statement suspicious, albeit for ever-changing reasons. Sgt. Nichols and Officer Sims also interviewed the store's Assistant Manager, Deshawn Mallory, who confirmed that he had placed two money bags in the safe the previous evening and that only one of them was missing.

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During the ensuing police investigation, Sgt. Nichols began to suspect that the robbery was an inside job and that the three women had staged the crime. In addition to finding suspicious both Urquhart's agitation at being interviewed and Sykes's witness statement, Sgt. Nichols also had uncovered that Holmes was a frequent gambler at a local casino, which possibly supplied a motive. On March 11, 2002, Sgt. Nichols prepared a subpoena to serve on MotorCity Casino (" Casino" ). Ten days later, on March 21, 2002, the Casino faxed to Sgt. Nichols's attention at the police station Holmes's gaming records for the three days immediately following the robbery: March 8, March 9, and March 10. Those records indicated that Holmes's " player's card" was used to gamble $23,116 at the Casino over those three days. Importantly, however, the Casino cautioned in a disclaimer letter included with the gaming records that the amount of money wagered with a player's card was not reliable as to (1) the amount of money wagered or (2) the identity of the gambler. The Casino further disclosed that the records were estimates developed for marketing purposes and " would not establish in any reliable manner the dates of attendance, gambling activities, or winnings or losses of a player." Doc. 231-7 (Casino Letter at 2).

Sgt. Nichols never received the Casino records because she had been replaced as the officer in charge by Defendant Sergeant Derrick Anderson. It was thus Sgt. Anderson who retrieved the fax. Despite the disclaimer letter on the front of the records stating explicitly that the gaming records neither confirmed that Holmes had wagered the amount listed nor that Holmes was actually even present at the Casino, Sgt. Anderson conducted no further investigation. As the new officer in charge, Sgt. Anderson and his partner, Police Investigator Maurice McClure, obtained the original VHS video-surveillance tape from the Sprint PCS store and digitized the tape with the help of the Michigan State Police Technical Services Unit so that the images could be viewed in sequence.1 According to Sgt. Anderson, he viewed the tape numerous times.

Based on the evidence that both he and Sgt. Nichols had gathered, on April 27, 2002, Sgt. Anderson prepared an Investigator's Report and sought authorization for an arrest warrant for Sykes, Urquhart, and Holmes from Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Rita H. Lewis, at the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. In addition to his written report detailing his investigation, Sgt. Anderson also submitted to Lewis the digitized surveillance tape from...

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